Written by George Orwell
Essay by Arthur Diennet
In 1936, George Orwell published his short story ‘Shooting an elephant’ in an English magazine. Since then, it has been republished dozens of times and holds a place as a definitive anti-colonial piece of literature, in an era where the British Empire was at its peak and covered almost 1/3 of the Earth’s surface. George Orwell believed that “…imperialism was an evil thing...” and uses much themes, symbolism and irony to convey his strong anti-colonialist feelings.
Theme is an integral part of this story and is mostly presented through the narrator. One of the major themes of the story is conscience, in which many of the conflicts in the story occur. The narrator has an unshakable mental division between his official position (Colonial Policeman) and his moral position (“Secretly, I was all for the Burmese and all against…the British.”) This is represented in the second paragraph, when he explains that “Feelings like [those] are the normal by-products of imperialism; ask any Anglo-Indian official, if you catch him off duty.” Therefore, there is a double-standard being felt by Imperialists. They have an overdeveloped sense of empathy and feel for the underdogs and the oppressed; yet, the Burmese do not empathize and, so, treat those who do like crap and, as a result, the imperialists feel less guilty about dealing with these insolent and looked-down-upon individuals. Order and disorder is an important underlying theme in the story. Order prevails when the elephant is tied and under control; disorder prevails when the elephant escapes and destroys the bazaar. And like an elephant-handler, the narrator (a policeman), must keep order. It is with this logic that it can be said that the narrator is unable to avoid the elephants untimely death. It’s all according to plan, it is the law to deal with a dangerous creature if it becomes a menace to the public and not to...